Zoë Bell: The Woman Behind the Action of Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ | Magic Hour


– [Director] Action! (loud crash) (giggling) Cut! – [Woman] How do you giggle
your way out of that? (laughter) – Doing “Kill Bill”,
Quentin’s big thing for me was when you’re in the costume and
you’re in front of the camera you are part of the
bride, you ARE the bride. And it was sort of something
I think I’d always believed but I’d never verbalized
or heard it verbalized, it’s not Zoe doing this on set, it’s not Zoe getting this attention, it’s- I am part of this character. I am a piece of the whole. Definitely need to get
a tight one of that one. It’s one of my new favorite
photos of me and my mum. (laughing) I just love this face. Just in awe. I was born in New Zealand on
a little island called Waiheke which is just off the coast of Auckland. I’ve always enjoyed the
sensations of being up high of going fast. I was a massive tree climber. The higher I could get up,
the kind of more exciting and fun it was. If I could get to the top and have a view from the
top of the tree, I was like- that went down in my
favorites as ‘favorite tree.’ I would just disappear into the forest and catch tadpoles or
make forts in the forest. And then when it started
getting dark, I would come home. It’s sort of when I think back at it now, it’s dreamy, really, the
sort of childhood that I had. And the weird thing about life is that because it was so normal and
I had no other comparison it was just, that was the norm. Maybe I was different
and just different enough that I just didn’t notice. (laughing) That’s about as girly
as I got at that age. That’s the feminine Zoe. This is me most Friday nights. It happens. It sounds obvious, but my
strengths have always been the things that I’m most passionate about. So English, I always did
really well in English. PE. Physical Education, obviously. Photography. And it was
sort of concerning to me, at some point, when I realized
I should be considering, a career of something at some point. I was like, “Where in the
world do those three things “apex in something that I could monetize?” When you’re selling a hit,
it’s all about, for me, if I’m gonna hit you,
bonk, straight in the face. If you imagine that whatever this is travels out the other end, so if I’m hitting you in the nose it’s like something’s pulling
you on the back of the head. – [Interviewer] So after high school, did you go to university? – No, I took a year off after high school because I didn’t know what I wanted to be. My Dad would have been a
doctor, my mom had been a nurse and a real estate agent. I was toying with the idea
of going to med school, but I didn’t have a passion for it, so the plan was to take a year off, see what was going on
in my life and my world before I’d committed
to going to university, and in that year, basically
I’d finished doing gymnastics when I was 15, 16, but I’d stayed training because I just sort of loved it, and I had met a man by the name
of Peter Bell, no relation, who turns out was like a
stunt man in New Zealand. It just popped up in a bunch
of different places in my life, including my dad was working at an ER and he had had a stuntman come in that had a concussion
and a bump on the head, and I had been banging on about it at home because I’d seen an interview
with a stuntman on tv and I was like, “I’m sorry,
people get paid to do what?” And Dad then came home
with the phone number of this Pete Bell guy that
I had been training with. And it’s funny ’cause suddenly
now I had direct access to it and then I was terrified.
I was like “Hell no “I’m not calling that guy,
like what am I gonna say? “What am I gonna tell him,
I think I’d be good at it?” Dad was like, “Yeah.” I was like, “Ugh! That
goes against every grain “in my body!” And he
basically locked me outside with the phone and was like- and he wasn’t trying to be profound, he was just speaking sense. But he said, “Here’s the thing. “You could not make the phone call today, “and you’d wake up tomorrow “in exactly the same place you are “which is great, you’ve got a good life, “you’re healthy, you’re
happy, no big deal. “You could make the phone
call and wake up tomorrow “and nothing’s changed. Or you could-” (laughs) This is gonna make me cry. “Or you could make the phone call, “and you could- (laughs) “wake up tomorrow a stunt woman. “But if you don’t make the call, “you definitely won’t
wake up a stunt woman.” (laughing) Thanks Dad! (sniffling) That is so weird, I don’t
think I’ve ever cried telling that story. That’s “Amazon High”,
the first job I ever did. I wish I could zoom in
like new-school technology, so you could look at just how full, ‘whatever’ tom-boy face I had. My first job was down
there for three weeks. I met this group of stunt
people and it was like, I had found family instantly. And we’re all a variety of
different personalities, but whatever that mutual joy
or appreciation of the work is, I had not felt it like that before, it was…dunno, I was just like, “I’d like to do this forever.” (Laughing) These are quite classic. “Xena” days- this was obviously the same episode, but it was often me and
a bunch of stunt guys, a number of whom are
now my forever brothers. Lucy, without a doubt, has been such an informative role model, really. I knew when I watched her,
that’s the kind of person I wanted to be on set. She was the lead, she
took her work seriously, but she always set this
sort of tone that was light-hearted, she was super-accessible, was really impressed by
how she conducted herself. Lucy had said, you know, you
and I are often the nucleus of the mood on-set, and
it’s important that you accept and respect that responsibility. And I remember being like, “That is one of those I
should write it down lessons.” And it turns out I didn’t
need to write it down ’cause I’ll never forget it. The first real injury I had was on “Xena”. We were doing a gag where Xena’s- she flips off the platform and lands in the town
square, she’s two stories up, and Pete Bell, who was my
coordinator at the time, was like, “I don’t think physically
possible to get you to clear this platform before you flip.” And I was 19 at the time, and I was like, “I can make it work.” But so I under rotated and I hit the end of my wires, flat with my back towards the ground, so my hips stopped and everything else didn’t. First thought was, “Oh my god, what if I can never work again?” And then I had a moment where I was like, “What if I can never walk again?” But you know what? The funny thing is that wasn’t when I learnt the lesson. I then went to hospital, I had fractured one of the little nubby
bits in my vertebrae, I had to rest or whatever. But I went back to work
a couple of weeks later, and I walked onto set that
day and pulled the director, the second the director
looked at me, he was like, “Why are you here?” And I was like, “I’m fine! Look! I can
do things that, you know, “fine!” And he was like, “Okay, well, we’re breaking a chair over your back.” I was like, “Oh no, I’ve
got two back pads on, it’ll be fine.” And we rolled cameras and they broke this chair over my back, and it (gasp) just dropped me. I was crying involuntarily, it wasn’t- (gasping) but tears were rolling,
I couldn’t breathe. I was in the most severe pain ever, and Paul looked at me and he was like, “Go home. Don’t come
back until you’re better, “because we need you, but
you’re no good to us broken.” That was the lesson. It’s not about being strong, it’s about being competent. I was working on “Xena” and
one of the ADs came to set and was like, “Zoe! “There’s a call for you on the set phone!” Her name is Amanda McAuley and she was the director of Double Dare. And I guess her story is, she’d been wanting to do this documentary on Hollywood stuntwomen, and I was like, “Shit, no, I don’t wanna do that.” And she was like, “Wh-what do you mean?” I was like, “No, because
you’re gonna expect me to be “fit and healthy and
working out all the time. “I eat McDonald’s, I drink all the time, “I smoke like a pack of cigarettes a day, “I am not the person you want. “Like if you’re gonna splice that, “I’m gonna have to fake it
and I’m not doing that.” And so she rang back and was like, “I don’t know how else to say this, “but I like that you swear “and I’m down with the fact
that you smoke cigarettes “and I don’t care that
you don’t work out.” At that point, I went, “Sure.” And through that, in a random sort of way, I ended up at the
auditions for “Kill Bill”. I’m gonna double Uma Thurman! That’s me and Uma. In China. Cute, that one. I don’t
have very many with her, so that’s rad. This is me in the crazy 88, and Quentin, squished
in the middle, there. Killed all of them. (laughing) We drive into the Beijing film studios, and my memory is such that I walk in and I’m in the studio was- the 20 Chinese fight team members, and that’s kind of it. I’m just there. There was a woman, Satiya, who was there to do all the Wushu sword stuff for Uma. I remember at one point watching Satiya be taught some of the fight beats, and then they walked
away and left her to it, and she got about sort of 4 or 5 beats in and I could see her sort
of not know what the next- she couldn’t remember
what the next move was. And I remembered what the next move was, I just didn’t know how to do it. And I’d say to her, I was like, “I think it’s that thing
where you, you know, “go over your head.” And she was like, “Oh, you mean this!”
(Whoosh) And I was like, “Yeah that, whatev- yeah
that thing.” You know. And there came, uh, the
agreement basically, that she would, they
would teach her the fight, I would watch, remember the choreography, because it’s what I’d been
doing for four years on “Xena”, and then I would teach
her the choreography and she would teach me
how to do the moves. And then the first day we were
on set to shoot the fight, I was sitting there in the costume, when all I could rememeber
was them going like, “We’re gonna go through
this part of the fight.” And tiger-walk through
it. And they were like, “Ah, ah, sorry.” And I was like, “I’m sorry, what?” And they were like, “We’re gonna do this part of the fight.” And I was like, “Okay! Cool, Uh.” And I got up and I did it and afterwards, I walked up to Deedee and I was like, “You never taught me that
fight!” And he was like, “Yeah, but we’ve been watching.” And that was it, that was… Then I became a bit of everything-double. Check this out! One of the things that I
loved about “Death Proof” and when Quentin was sitting in my house telling me about it for
the first time, like, “You know that character
that’s called Zoe, “that’s called Zoe because it’s you. “And you’re gonna play that role.” Him talking about the importance of that stunt community and the way that we think and the way that we communicate and having two of the lead
roles being stunt people… I was so honored on behalf
of the stunt community and on behalf of the behind the scenes, it was so important to
him that the movie wasn’t an expose of what’s behind the curtains, but a kudos to the hidden
heroes that that’s- and that’s how he really felt about them. “Hateful Eight” with Quentin,
his words to me on that, my memory is him basically being like, “Look, your job in this movie
is to be as cute as possible, “and then die good.” And I was like, “Cute. Can-do. “Die good? Definitely.” (laughing) One of the first times you really see me, I pop up into the carriage? And it was the second
time we went to do it, and Tim Roth was in there, and
I popped up and I was like, “Blablablablablah!” And I looked at Tim and he was just looking at me like, not in-character at all,
but completely just like, “Look at her!” (laughing) And I finished it and we’re like, “Cut, blahblahblah.” And Tim
came up to me afterwards, and he was like, “You’re so adorable, you’re doing such an amazing
job.” And I was just like, “Tim Roth is telling me
I’m doing good acting! That’s amazing!” Being a stunt coordinator, it was like a perspective shift. And
it was an interesting thing for Quentin and I, too, because our relationship had
always been, he was like, “I want this!” And I was like, “Let’s do it!” And on
this one, I was like, “Ooh.” I can’t put someone
else in that position until I’ve done all the checks. And I had to figure out a
way to do that with him. It was like being an adult stunt person, it was eye-opening in
the best possible way. I think my magic hour is
right after the sun comes up. There’s something peaceful
about that time in the morning because this isn’t happening yet, everyone’s not awake
and it’s not all abuzz, and the sun’s not 100%
up. I wake up very easily, so I’m alert, and it’s
really nice to be alert when the world is sleepy. I have a little- this is my mum in my pocket. – [Interviewer] Aww!
– (laughing) You know, last year was,
it was amazing stuff and there was horrible
stuff, but it was like everything was big. All
the way through all of it, there’s been these moments of beauty that have been undeniable. Mum and Dad both when I would come home and tend to be a bit, like, “I could have done this differently, “and I wish I’d’ve done that differently, “and blablablablah,” and, they were both really vocal in being like, “You’re
where you are for a reason.” And that was always Mum’s sort of thing was not even a matter of having earned it, but just, “You’ve made the
decisions you’ve made along “the way and you’ve put in
the work where you’ve put it, “that you have led yourself here “in some way, shape or form.” – [Interviewer] What would the little girl running around in New Zealand… What would she be
thinking about Zoe today? – I imagine little Zoe would
probably be quite enamored and excited that that’s what
she had to look forward to and I think that’d probably be also if she was emotionally
congnizant enough at the time to probably try and
remind me of that freedom that comes from the fearlessness and how to reengage with that, that sometimes putting meaning on stuff just makes it harder. I do this career because I love the work. I’ve learned how to play that game with my own set of rules, I’m starting to figure that out. (gently drifting piano)

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